The lights are on
Veteran Member - Level 11
I've been a gamer since the tender age of 5. Back in those
days, it was easy to be a gamer and have limited ability to read, and hands too
small to easily operate today's larger controllers. Yes, I started a sentence
with "back in those days." Please try to
avoid conjuring images of an 80 year old gamer. Getting hooked on gaming at an
early age was simply less challenging. Cutting your teeth on learning mediums
such as Leapfrog handhelds and the
like wasn't necessary. I played videogames almost every day for the entirety of
my childhood and adolescence. I missed out on some things due to my gaming way
of life, but nothing to ever make me take a step back and reevaluate the
choices I was making. Adulthood, however, brought with it new challenges that
would make me realize the difference between having a hobby, and having an
I married my first wife back in 2000. No, I'm not one of
those guys who has a backlog of ex-wives sitting in a dusty, tear stained photo
album somewhere. One ex-wife is more than I ever wanted, and all I will ever
have. I was 20 then, and I can remember the chorus of voices to this day
telling me I was too young and that it was a horrible mistake I was making.
However, being what I like to call "stupid years old," I allowed these words to
flow into one ear, travel around the part of my brain (albeit small part of my
brain) that comprehends and understands words of wisdom and out the other ear.
Although it would be too easy to blame the negative events of my life on being
young and stupid, we rarely learn anything by trying to escape causality and
instead point fingers.
In case you didn't already do the math, 15 years of gaming
ruled over my life up to my marriage. Like a nicotine addict tries to put down
the cigarette after so many years, I attempted many times to not let gaming
consume my freshly married life. At first, spending time with my new bride was
a priority of mine. We would go on dates, spend time at home doing obnoxious
"husband and wife" things together, and we really
talked to each other. This would be a beautiful (if not extremely short and
boring) narrative if the story of my first marriage continued where it started.
She was never a big fan of videogames, and so I was always cautious not to go
overboard with the amount of time I spent gaming. However, as addictions often
do, my need to "game" would swell more and more inside of me until it was no
longer possible for me to quiet the urge.
The PS2 was fresh on the market, and I knew I had to have
one. Without concern for my now joint set of responsibilities, I went out and
bought one. Anyone who has been married before can relate to the sea of
excrement I was in after dropping over $560 that day (system+games+taxes=holy
crap am I in trouble). I exhausted the PS2 launch titles, even the very
terrible ones such as Orphan and Eternal Ring. I rebuilt towns in Dark Cloud over and over again. I
marveled at how much better Madden looked
on this new system. Videogames had never looked or felt so real before, and I
found myself lost in beautifully rendered worlds communicating with wonderfully
designed character models in scripted dialogue. All the while my wife, with
whom I spoke with so many times about fascinating and non-scripted topics, was
left to wonder when her husband was going to return to her from his distant
adventure within the same house.
Recalling exactly when things turn sour in any aspect of
your life can prove to be a difficult task. Especially when you're not really
paying attention to much of what is going on around you. This was true with my
relationship with my ex-wife. I can't say for sure if it was when I bought yet
another system and got lost in the ring world of Halo. An argument could be
made that it was when we moved into base housing at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, and I turned
the second bedroom into the ultimate gaming room. A room so attuned to my
addiction that it became a tomb in which my marriage would ultimately be laid
to rest. Sadly, to this day it is hard to recall exactly when we just weren't a
couple anymore. During the course of our marriage, I owned 8 consoles and 2
handhelds. It proved to be too many distractions for me to offer up any
attention elsewhere. The only place we were intimate was the bedroom. I didn't
really know my wife after a few years, and she knew all she needed to know
Orders that would send me to Korea for a year without her soon
came. Physically, I left for Korea
in 2004. The stark and inescapable reality was that I left her long before
that. I continued to game heavily in Korea, and spent many nights having
drunken videogame battles with my friends. Once again, my marriage was an
afterthought. While others would spend at least a little time each day on the
phone or on the web with their significant others back home, my phone calls and
internet communications were few and far between. There is one phone call I
will always remember; the day I called my wife and she said it was over. It
surprised me, although it shouldn't have. My heart broke, but it was more out
of a sense of nostalgia and failure than it was about losing someone I loved.
That was a tough nugget of truth to digest.
There was nothing about her that should have compelled me to
let her fade into the scenery of the backdrop of my life. She was a very sweet,
loving person. I can remember her smile, and the way she laughed. I loved
making her laugh. There in lies the tragedy. Replacing my wife with gaming was
probably the single greatest injustice I have ever committed against another
person. While there are several circumstances that played into the finality of
our wedded days, replacing my wife with something else, a "thing" really, was
probably the lowest of them all.
Divorce has a way of making you reassess your life. While I
can't say that I grieved over the loss of my marriage for long (as I said, it
was over long before the ink dried on the papers), I felt compelled to look
back and try to piece together where I went wrong. Mistakes were made by both
of us, and there were many things I could have pointed to, and so I did.
Addicts seldom ever see the real problem. It's always something else. For me, I
blamed infidelity. I blamed the many deployments and the year long tour in Korea. Our
exchange of words had soured as the eve of our marriage drew closer, and I
blamed that too. Hurtful names and heated exchanges surely did us in.
Satisfaction never came with these conclusions, however, and so I continued to
try and solve a puzzle that made the Rubix Cube seem like child's play.
When I met my current wife, I was still a pretty heavy
gamer. When I was courting her, however, I managed to put videogames second.
Everything was going well, and it seemed as though I would get a second chance
at marital bliss. We married without ceremony, just us and a couple of her
friends as witnesses. It was simple and beautiful. We were happy, and we felt
so close to each other that I wondered if life could get any better. My
inability to figure out where my last marriage went wrong was no longer an
issue for me. And so, I forgot about it. Meanwhile, lingering in the back of my
mind like a lion stalking in the tall grass was just one problem, my addiction
I can remember the first time my wife said that I wasn't
paying attention to her anymore. Her words hit me by surprise, as I couldn't
even comprehend what she was talking about. Truth can often cut deeper than any
blade forged by the hands of men. That night, I lay in bed with my mind
bleeding from truth's gaping wound. In that moment, I had a revelation that granted me a comprehension of what I had done. Most importantly, I was playing out
that pattern again. Words cannot describe the density and weight of my heart in
that moment of scathing realization. I was mocked by my own comprehension of
the events that ripped my first marriage asunder. It was in that moment I had to
make a choice; take a stand for my marriage, or let the plot of the last one
play out here as well.
I sold all my consoles and games. I had to. There was no way
for me to know if I could outlast my desire to tune out the world around my and
get lost within my own home. This time, I would choose my marriage. For one
long agonizing year, the only time I played and videogames was at friends
houses. My sacrifice, however, did not go unnoticed. One of the reasons I love
my wife is her ability to see something that is important to me and understand
why, even if she thinks it's stupid. She has always been able to let me enjoy
my guilty pleasures, even if they bored her to tears or made her cringe at the
fact that her husband could be into them. With her sixth sense, she knew how
much gaming meant to me.
On no particular occasion, for no reason other than love,
one day my wife turned to me and tried to convince me I needed and Xbox 360. I
didn't want to put her through that. She was pregnant with our first child, and
I worried about taking attention away from him as well. Regardless of my
objections, she was dead set on making the purchase. With the apprehension of a
tuna in a shark tank, I let her drive me to Best Buy to get one. Fueled by love
and admiration for my wife, I made a vow. As long as she and my son were home
and awake, the power button would not flash to life. It is an arrangement that
has served us well in the 5 years since. I've never been a big fan of puzzle
games, but it seems as though I finally solved the one that mattered most.
I enjoy gaming. Don't get me wrong. Most of my memories of
gaming are some of my fondest. My son is now 5, and I've already introduced him
to gaming as well. I'm careful to put more limitations on his gaming than my
parents put on me, but mainly because I see so much of myself in him. I don't
want my son to become obsessed. I want him to enjoy gaming, but I want him to
be able to put down the controller to enjoy life as well. Gaming with my son
brings back, for me, all the wonderful times I spent with my brother when I was
about his age. I want to be a part of this experience for him.
This isn't about the evil of gaming. I wouldn't stop gaming
for anything other than my wife and kids. And there it is. The line in the
sand. The heart of this entire piece. As a gamer, being lost in this wonderful
hobby is something I look forward to as often as I can. It can be a rewarding
and enriching experience when viewed through the proper prism of reality. It is
ok to get lost in a game. They are, after all, designed to draw you inward.
What we must all remember is that there is a razor thin line between hobby and
obsession. If you tread with reckless abandon on that line, you may too find
yourself unable to recall what exactly went wrong. Life waits for no one. There
is no pause button. There is, however, a pause button in that controller in
your hand. You would be wise to hit it every now and then.